Archive for March, 2011


A Deeper Look Into Laputa

Producer Miyazaki seems to like to put ideas into the minds of his viewers which do not seem to make sense at first.  Change is every present in this world and Miyazaki is pushing for change in the right direction.  Just when society thinks of a situation one way, Miyazaki makes us think in such an abstract way that it can easily change our opinion on the matter.  People’s opinions can not only change but it can make people want to do something for the better of the world.
In the movie “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” Miyazaki apparently wants to correlate a cooperative relationship between nature and technology.  It seems like an oxymoron to have natural technology but that is exactly what the source of Laputa’s power is.  It is a stone that no human has produced artificially and it is the greatest source of power the world has ever known.  It seems to instill in the viewer’s mind a beautiful relationship of technology how it can actually help preserve nature.  People might think of technology as the reason for why there is so much pollution or why nature has problems.  This is simply not true and Miyazaki illustrates this in his film: “Laputa: Castle In The Sky” by showing how technology helps and protects nature.  (Lioi, 2)  He uses a robot to illustrate the potential that humans have when war is not in our minds.  That potential is to live in harmony with the living.  (Lioi, 9)  With this revelation, it is clear that humans are the threat to life but can also do a world of good.
The thought of what life could be like if everything was perfect is an inspiring thought.  Miyazaki uses the beauty of the landscapes in some of his scenes to depict how the mind can imagine what “perfection” would be like.  It begs questions such as: “is this kind of utopia out of reach?” and “what might we do to get closer to this perfection?” (Lioi, 14)  With this movie, I believe that Miyazaki wants us to believe that though absolute perfection is out of reach, we can still try to reach it.
The thought provoking genius of Miyazaki is astounding because it can make the viewer think differently about an issue entirely.  It not only made me change my mind, it also made me want to better myself toward perfection.  Miyazaki has successfully proven that technology is not an opponent of nature.  Sometimes society makes it seem that way because of how technology is abused.  He reminds us that human nature is something we must control in order to live a better life.

This is where the article came from.

Lioi, Anthony.                                                                                                                           “The City Ascends: Laputa: Castle in the Sky as Critical Ecotopia.”    ImageText. 2010. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.                                               <http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/v5_2/lioi/&gt;.

 

Matt Ellis

Spirited Away

**spoiler alert**

Cover of the DVD

Ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino is moving with her parents to a new town when they become lost and find what appears to be an abandoned amusement park.  Chihiro’s father decides to explore it while a reluctant Chihiro and her mother accompany him.  They soon discover a stall with food, and Chihiro’s parents sample the food, but find themselves unable to stop eating.  Chihiro soon realizes that she is in a magical world when she sees her parents literally turn into pigs.

Running to get help, Chihiro finds a boy, Haku, who smuggles her into a large bathhouse and tells her to find a job so she can stay there until he can help her recover her parents and escape.  Haku also hints that he knew Chihiro when she was little.  Haku instructs Chihiro to see Kamaji at the boiler room to ask for work.  Kamaji, a six-armed, grumpy, but kind-hearted fellow, says he has no work for Chihiro and entrusts her to Lin to take her to Yubaba.  Yubaba, the cranky, elderly witch who runs the bathhouse, agrees to let Chihiro work for her, but takes all of Chihiro’s name except the first character of her first name, which Yubaba calls “Sen.”  Sen later learns that Yubaba controls her servants by taking their names.

While working, she sees a masked spirit, named “No Face,” outside of the bathhouse.  She leaves the door open and he enters the bathhouse.  Sen’s first customer is a heavily polluted river spirit that all of the other workers avoid.  When Sen successfully cleans the spirit, it rewards her with a dumpling-like object.  Afterward, Sen discovers that Haku is actually a dragon, and when he is attacked in this form by shikigami in the form of paper birds, leaving him seriously wounded, she feels him the dumpling.  Haku coughs up a gold seal and an odd black slug, which Sen squishes.  When Haku remains unresponsive, Kamaji tells Sen to visit Zeniba, Yubaba’s identical twin sister, who owns the seal, so the curse of the seal can be lifted.  Kamaji gives Sen train tickets for her to be able to travel to Zeniba’s swamp.  She is accompanied by Boh, Yubaba’s giant baby son, whom Zeniba had turned into a mouse.

During this time, No Face swallows a spirit in order to use his voice and makes fake gold nuggets to order food and other items from

Yubaba and Chihiro

the staff.  No Face becomes larger as he eats, and swallows several spirits after Sen declines his offer of gold.  Later, Sen lures him out of the bath house by feeding him the remainder of the dumpling, which causes him to vomit until his stomach is empty and he is back to his normal self.  No Face accompanies Sen and Boh/mouse to Zeniba’s house on the train.

Sen visits Zeniba, who she finds is very friendly and pleasant, in sharp contrast to Yubaba.  Zeniba says that Sen had broken the seal’s spell by her love and caring and that the slug that Sen killed was a curse that Yubaba had placed on Haku to make him her slave.  Haku, now fully recovered, comes to pick up Sen.  No Face remains with Zeniba.  On the way back, Haku says that if they return Boh, Yubaba’s son, to Yubaba, she will free Sen and her parents.  Sen returns the favor by helping Haku remember his full name by reminiscing as a child when she fell into her hometown’s river and was saved by the current (Haku in his river dragon form).  The river’s name was the Kohaku River, and Haku’s real name was Kohaku.  At the remembrance of his name, Haku is completely freed of Yubaba’s spell.

Haku in Dragon form

At the bathhouse, Sen returns Boh to Yubaba, but the witch has one final test: Sen has to identify which of a group of pigs are her parents.  Sen looks closely, then says that there must be a mistake; her parents aren’t there.  This breaks the spell on the pigs and forces Yubaba to give Sen the rest of her name back and let her go.  Now “Chihiro” again, Haku leads her to the entrance of the spirit world, saying that her parents are on the other side but warns her not to look back (he did not explicitly state a reason for this), though they promise to see each other again.  Chihiro meets her parents, and they continue on to their new home.

*wikipedia.org

Brent Allison is a graduate of the University of Georgia.  He completed a dissertation about the impact of Anime fandom in the United States on the informal education of Japanese culture.  He is also a contributer to the book The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki edited by Mark I. West.  Within this book, Allison writes a chapter centralized on interviews that he conducts with a total of twelve anime fans of ages 13-18 at different fan conventions across the United States.

Allison discusses several different aspects of anime with these teenagers including the social interaction that results, their emotions that result, preferences within anime, and other entertainment factors.  However, he also asks them if and what they learn about Japanese culture from viewing anime.  Some of the responses he receives are as follows:

“You can learn that women are sometimes on a lower status in Japan.  ‘Women need to be quiet,’ and ‘Men need to be a little louder,’ but especially back in the 1990s, it was still considered, you know, the woman being the silent type..”

“They [Japanese women] need to be more demure and more, I dunno, how should I say this?  They have to be quiet.  And I guess that’s why I like the stronger women in anime because most of them, females in Japanese anime, are told to, like, cook and clean and basically be the perfect housewives.”

“Well the whole tea ceremony things are in a lot of animes… [We] once went to this Japanese arts school kind of thing.  We went through a whole tea ceremony and, like, origami and calligraphy.  I mean I walked through stuff like that and everything.”

While it is evident, that these statements are given by teenagers, it is also evident that there is some learning taking place about Japanese culture while kids are watching these movies and/or shows.  They are picking up on gender roles in Japanese society and comparing it to our own society.  They are also taking the initiative to learn about some of the practices they are viewing by going out and experiencing it for themselves.

Allison also posed the question of whether the viewers preferred “Subs” or “Dubs.”  “Subs” being the original Japanese version of anime films which contain English subtitles for the American viewer and “Dubs” being the version of the film in which the original voices have been dubbed over by English-speaking actors for the American audience.  The response he recieved substantially surprised me.  The majority of the viewers said that they preferred “Subs.”  Some of their responses were as follows:

“I hate dubs because they just, they ruin it.  Like, for example, in ‘Tenchi,’ I love the character Aeka in Japanese, but then, like, when they dubbed her in English, they gave her this old lady voice.  And, I mean, I’m sure their actress is a good actress.  I mean, I understand that they don’t really wanna look at the Japanese because they won’t get their own feel for the character.  But I just hated the character Aeka in the dub, but I loved her in the sub, so I was kinda torn.”

“Um, subs are better just because dubbed just kinda sounds bad, you know?… They’re just not into it.  They’re all like… ‘Even though I’m from Japan, I have a Southern accent.’  Please, god it sucks!”

“The voices don’t fit the characters or they get the timing wrong, or there’s something not quite right about seeing your favorite characters speak English, so I prefer subtitles, but I’m also not opposed to dubbed.”

According to these statements, the majority of kids actually prefer reading while they watch TV.  This is probably one of the most beneficial things that could come out of a television series.  In order for kids to keep up with reading the subtitles and watching their favorite shows, they have to learn to read quickly, which whether they realize it or not is giving them a valuable skill in their education as well as for use later in life.

This may not be the case for all adolescents who are avid fans of anime, but if some are learning about other cultures and picking up practical educational skills in the process of something they enjoy, then I’d say that anime is successful as well as beneficial.  This is a good and fun avenue for kids to be exposed to other regions of the world.

[A list of Allison’s credentials can be found at http://www.animefandom.org/cv.html]

[Also to read more from this book, check your local library or visit http://www.amazon.com/Japanification-Childrens-Popular-Culture-Godzilla/dp/0810851210 to purchase it]

-Beth-